Washington and Seattle Lead US in Minimum-wage Rates

In the year ahead, workers in more than half of U.S. states will see increases in the minimum wage
| Updated: January 7, 2020

Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia will raise their minimum wage this year, most effective as of Jan. 1, but the highest minimum wage in the nation will still be claimed by Seattle, according to a recent analysis by payroll experts Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory U.S.

The report says the highest minimum wage rates in the nation are found at the municipal level, with Seattle leading the pack at $16 per hour for large employers and $15 for small companies. On a statewide basis, Washington also commands the highest minimum-wage rate, at $13.50 per hour.

The the lowest rate can be found in Georgia and Wyoming ― at $5.15 per hour, though most employees in those states still command the higher federal minimum wage rate of $7.25 per hour, the Wolters Kluwer report notes.

By contrast, California raised its minimum wage rate by $1 effective Jan. 1, to $12 per hour for employers with 25 or fewer employees and to $13 per hour for employers with 26 employees or more.

“The increases [in the minimum wage] indicate a move toward ensuring a living wage for people,” says attorney Barbara O'Dell, an employment law analyst for Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory U.S. “Some of the new rates are the result of previously approved incremental increases to reach a specific amount that is considered to be a living wage, such as California, Colorado, Maine, Washington, whereas other states’ increases reflect an annual cost-of-living adjustment, such as Alaska, Florida, Minnesota and Montana.”

“Those states following the step-up approach tend to have higher minimum wage rates than those taking a cost-of-living adjustment approach,” the Wolters Kluwer analysis states. “The trend towards regional minimum wages, such as those in New York and Oregon, also reflect lawmakers’ recognition that costs of living are higher in large metro areas than they are in other parts of the state.”

This article originally ran on Seattle Business magazine's website.

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